The Fifth Domain Won’t be the Sole Battleground

By James Van de Velde

James Van de Velde is an Associate Professor at the National Intelligence University as well as Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the US Government, the Department of Defense, or the National Intelligence University.    

Although cyberspace may have been declared the fifth domain of warfare by the U.S. Department of Defense, many wonder if the concepts of warfare applies to this domain. Is the domain somehow different from the others? Can states achieve new political outcomes by the clever use of cyberspace alone? Can the threat of actions taken through cyberspace alone deter warfare?

At first, some analysts, such as Richard Clarke in his 2011 book on cyberspace, Cyber War, posited that cyberspace would be definitive – that end states, or the final stage of a military operation, could be achieved through the clever manipulation of computer systems alone. Later, that view was contrasted by analysts such as Thomas Rid in his 2012 piece in Foreign Policy, entitled “Think Again: Cyberwar,” in which he argued that cyberspace might have little ability to achieve new end states at all and might merely pose nuisances for states in their quest to change the status quo.

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